DUBAI: “A gift to Morocco and the rest of the world,” is how New York-based photographer Jinane Ennasri describes her new photobook, “Live From Morocco.”
The new photobook focuses on sharing the diverse beauty and culture of the North African country by way of grainy, pastel-tinged film photographs of people and everyday life in the Moroccan cities of Tangier, Fes, Oujda, Berkane, Al-Hoceima and the photographer’s birth city Taza.
The candid photos, which were shot and collected between 2016 and 2019, capture the Northern region of Morocco in its rawest and purest form. “I find it beautiful that modernization and imported technology have not distorted Morocco to the extent of losing its substance or its essence,” shares Ennasri with Arab News. “Morocco has accepted these things and made a place for them, while safeguarding its sense of values and its history.”
Its 50-pages take readers on a journey through tiny villages, where older Moroccan men congregate with their bicycles, and through the turquoise Mediterannean waters where young sun-drenched men are diving from rocks.
But the photobook does much more than depict everyday street life. By simply capturing the country how it is, Ennasri’s photo-journalistic approach encapsulates Moroccan people as complex subjects while challenging the false idea of the monolithic Arab experience.
The author and shutterbug is in the throng of new Moroccan photographers who are redefining what it truly means to be Moroccan while pushing back against stereotypes.
The 25-year-old, who first picked up a camera in 2012, reveals that “Live From Morocco” is a deeply personal project for her. “I’ve always felt obligated to make sure people knew where I came from,” says Ennasri, who identifies as a Moroccan-American-Muslim. “I keep in mind to reflect it in my work somehow.”
Ennasri immigrated with her family from Morocco to the United States in 1999. Her family settled in Queens, New York, before relocating to Jersey City.
The creative attended Pace University in Lower Manhattan where she pursued a degree in Finance & Economics. Shortly after graduating, she worked at a prestigious law firm in New York before leaving the 9-5 life behind to pursue her passion, photography, as a full-time career.
“Live From Morocco” is Ennasri’s second photobook. She released “Perspective,” which consists of 60 photographs of subjects in France, Morocco and the UAE in 2017.
THE BREAKDOWN: Lebanese artist Dinah Diwan discusses ‘Wandering City #17’
The Lebanese artist discusses her 2021 mixed-media artwork, inspired by Beirut and showcased at the inaugural edition of Menart Fair in Paris last month
Updated 17 min 15 sec ago
DUBAI: I started the “Wandering City” series in 2018. It began with a piece of my diary that I wrote in 1975. I was writing every day in this diary, describing a lot of paths that I used to walk in Beirut when I was 13. I was really struck by that. We were extremely free at that moment; we could do whatever we wanted, but we were well aware of the political situation. I would write everything that was happening in Lebanon during the beginning of the Civil War.
I took my diary and started to play with maps of Beirut, mixing what I remember with what’s happening now. I left Lebanon a long time ago, but I still keep going back and forth. I trained as an architect in France and I never forgot this idea of maps and psychogeography. I was very much inspired by how you reconstruct your own geography. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s about how you keep searching for others, sensations, vegetation and light.
In “Wandering City #17,” the writing is based on my diary entry for June 28, 1975. I went to my parents’ office with my mother to pick up my passport because I was traveling. We had to meet my father at the temple, which was next to my parent’s office. There were a lot of bombs on the way. June 28 was a real trauma for everyone.
I picked pink because I wanted something happy. Even if the war was happening, we were extremely happy. Pink and orange were the colors of my teenage years in the Seventies, or at least what I remember when I visualize that time: the colors of the clothes, movie posters, record covers, store fronts.
The process is, I transfer my map onto the cotton canvas and I pin everything and then I draw on top of it with acrylic pencil, layer by layer. Only the writing is stitched. When I do my maps, it takes forever, but it’s a kind of meditation and I don’t want it to finish. It’s a way to stay in my childhood. I’m trying to say goodbye to Beirut, but it’s not working.
Arab News visits the recently opened Cup & Cat Café in As-Sahafah
Updated 42 min 24 sec ago
RIYADH: The cat café phenomenon — which began in Taiwan more than 20 years ago — has finally reached the Saudi capital.
The Cup & Cat Café is located in Riyadh’s As-Sahafah district. When we visited, we saw people of all ages coming to enjoy the cats, from university students studying on their laptops, to small toddlers running around petting their furry friends.
It is designed to be a calming place — from the relaxing music to the light, neutral colors of the walls and furniture. all of which immediately puts visitors at ease.
On the ground floor of the two-story establishment are booths and seating areas for guests, along with a coffee bar. The café offers a fairly standard selection of drinks, including coffees and blended beverages such as chocolate milkshakes and cold mojitos. There are also snacks on offer, including French fries, cakes and pastries.
The food is fine, but nothing to get excited about. But, let’s face it, no one’s visiting a cat café because they want to get a great meal. Instead, they’re going to grab their drinks and head up the stairs (or take the elevator) to the second story, where the main attractions await.
The cats’ ‘home base’ is sectioned off by a gate and is, happily, extremely well-maintained. There are plenty of resting areas for the cats, and even a separate ‘quiet room’ with glass walls where visitors can sit in a calm space with the animal(s) of their choice.
It’s worth mentioning that there are currently only three cats in the café, however, but the baristas did mention that they plan to expand and add more in the near future.
Potential visitors will likely have some concerns over hygiene and smells, but this was honestly one of the cleanest cafés we have visited in Riyadh; every surface was immaculate and there are sanitizer stations placed throughout along with a chart of procedures on every table to ensure the cats are being handled in a safe, hygienic manner that is enjoyable for both humans and animals. This is an all-ages café, and such advice is particularly important for young children who wish to handle the cats.
The Cup & Cat Café is actually a great place for kids to learn about interacting safely with animals and to learn more about pets’ needs. The whole place is very family-friendly, with a children’s section upstairs equipped with a selection of books, a TV, and several small cat toys.
But it’s also a good place to just hang out with some friends (it’s open until 2 a.m.) or to get on with some work, especially when it first opens at 4 p.m. It’s a quiet location with free wi-fi, so you can bring along your laptop, find a secluded corner and get to work — possibly with a cat on your lap.
Overall, our visit was a very therapeutic experience. It’s hard to feel stressed with a purring kitty next to you, and it seemed that the animals themselves were happy with the situation too — they were all very friendly with guests, allowing themselves to be petted and fussed over. Expect to see the Cup & Cat Café making plenty of appearances on social media over the summer.
What We Are Reading Today: Seeing Serena by Gerald Marzorati
Updated 18 June 2021
Seeing Serena is an in-depth chronicle of the return to tennis of Serena Williams after giving birth to her daughter, and an insightful cultural analysis of the most consequential female athlete of her time.
It is a riveting chronicle of her turbulent 2019 tour season and a revealing portrait of who she is, both on and off the court.
Author Gerald Marzorati shadows her through her 2019 season, from Melbourne and the Australian Open, to Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, and on to the US Open as she seeks her 24th Grand Slam singles title.
He writes about her tennis and her forays into fashion, investing, and developing her personal brand on social media.
Seeing Serena illuminates Williams’s singular status as the greatest women’s tennis player of all time and — in a moment when race and gender are the most talked-about topics in America and beyond— a pop icon like no other.
Marzorati observes her, listens to her, studies her, explores her roles in society and history— sees Serena fully, in all the ways she has come to matter.
DUBAI: Jordanian-Romanian designer Amina Muaddi has been the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s go-to designer this week.
On Wednesday, one of Muaddi's Instagram posts showed reality TV star and entrepreneur Kylie Jenner — carrying her three-year-old daughter Stormi, from her relationship with rapper Travis Scott — stepping out in a pair of white boots by Muaddi called “the Pernille bootie.” The Kylie Cosmetics founder also accessorized her look with the brand’s Pernille handbag from the designer’s newly launched line.
Earlier in the week, Jenner’s older sister Kim Kardashian shared a series of images with her 228 million Instagram followers of herself in a green suit by French fashion label Jean Paul Gaultier and a daring corset by London-based Spanish designer Luis De Javier, which she paired with Muaddi’s green Karma pumps.
Muaddi’s brand — famous for its signature flared heels — has garnered a loyal following of famous fans, including Dua Lipa, Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin Bieber, and many more.
Building bridges: Saudi designer Nawaf Al-Nassar discusses the inspirations behind his work
Updated 17 June 2021
DUBAI: Interior design has a much deeper meaning for Nawaf Al-Nassar than for many others out there. For the Saudi designer, looking to the outdoors is what allows him to create the indoors.
Growing up in Jeddah, Al-Nassar travelled to London for his studies, where he was mentored by design icons including Zaha Hadid, Philippe Starck and Gianfranco Ferré. “It was amazing,” he tells Arab News.
After graduating in 1990, Al-Nassar returned to his hometown to work as an interior designer, starting his studio, 3N Jeddah (the three Ns being his name, his father’s name — Nahar — and their family name). It quickly gained popularity, acquiring residential and commercial projects in Jeddah, Riyadh, Cairo, Beirut, London, Paris and the south of France.
In 2017, Al-Nassar established Tasmeem Fair — a Saudi-based art platform for young designers to showcase their creativity. The fair became an instant hit, attracting 9,000 guests in its first week alone. He describes it as “my favorite — and the best — project of my life so far.”
His family’s origins — from a small village north of Riyadh in the center of the Kingdom — played a major role in Al-Nassar’s inspiration. He remembers his grandfather taking him out into the deserted Saudi countryside as a child.
“These were our family gatherings,” he says. “When I used to look at old houses in the beautiful desert, it attracted and relaxed me. When I’d go inside old palaces or any interior space, I always felt more relaxed.
“Since I was young, I’ve always felt more like I’m talking to myself when I'm inside an interior,” he continues. “Then, when I went to high school, I always felt comfortable sitting inside a space that was complete. All of us live in an interior space, but sometimes when we look around, we don’t feel comfortable. When I’d feel that in my youth, I’d find out it was because it was not made by a designer, but by a person who has expertise with walls and ceilings. not with proportion.”
Soon after, he attended a couple of summer schools in the United Kingdom to dive deeper into the world of interior design. And his calling towards the industry only grew. “When I sit with people, I love to know their interior, the outside doesn’t mean anything to me,” he explains. “The interior is the core to know the person more. So I started wanting to know more about the interior of things, which helped me a lot with product design. I really do believe that if the interior of where a person works or lives is not reflecting their character, they can never be themselves.”
For Al-Nassar, an artist should reflect his surroundings and his feelings towards them. As such, he began infusing local Saudi motifs into his designs to pass on to generations to come. “I love the space of my studio,” he says. “It really talks to me. As an interior designer, I use soft materials for the interior, such as fabric furniture, and I deal a lot with European companies.”
Although he owns many fabrics with European motifs, he had been longing to find a Saudi designer with his own design on a fabric. He collaborated with manufacturers to print the first Saudi design on a French fabric company’s products.
“It's very important when you go inside a space and you see details around you that reflect the surrounding of the city where you are,” Al-Nassar says. “Paris, Cairo and others have that, but in Saudi Arabia, I didn’t see any Saudi motifs, so I started to create this line of fabric design and we started manufacturing pieces.”
In May, he designed some furniture for the Kingdom’s Misk Institute. His brief was to use inspiration from a historical building in the country, so he turned to the historic Salwa Palace — the original home of the Al-Saud royal family, located northwest of Riyadh.
“I started to enjoy its smooth elements and I looked at it as an architectural designer,” he says. “It’s as if I was in an orchestra, it was like silent music and it was so beautiful to see.”
From that visit, he created “Takkei” (meaning ‘Let’s sit’), inspired by the stones that form the base of the palace. He used new material to achieve a more industrial look that he believed would be more attractive to younger generations. “It’s about speaking their language,” he explains.
Al-Nassar’s creative process happens in the outdoors. Whenever he is struggling for inspiration, he jumps in his car and drives to the mountains, two-and-a-half hours away from Jeddah. He is revitalized by the surrounding landscape and old houses, some of which date back 200 years.
“I can almost read the culture and the type of life they used to live there,” he says. “I’m definitely inspired by Saudi Arabia — but also by everywhere. You have to go to the location and smell old places to be inspired.”
He mentions the picturesque village of Qaryat Al-Dehin, which is made up of 49 houses built from white mountain marble and quartz. After much research, he visited with a friend who came from Qaryat Al-Dehin. Four hours of driving later, he was immersed in its beauty. He compares it to a moment when he was 16 and he and his father watched the great opera singer Luciano Pavarotti sing in Milan. “Honestly, the same feeling came to me when I looked at these 49 beautiful houses on top of this beautiful mountain,” Al-Nassar says. “It was the same energy — the same music; it was amazing.”
His passion for the outdoors has also extended to his teaching as a guest lecturer in universities. He will often take the students on field trips — something he deems vital for today’s youth. “They have to go there themselves and see the reality on the ground,” he explains. “I have done field trips everywhere in Saudi Arabia for students, and lately it has become for others as well.”
Al-Nassar sees great potential and talent in young Saudi architects and interior designers. He admires their creativity, but suggest they need the right curator.
Ultimately, he hopes such people can build a bridge between the Kingdom and the rest of the world. “Design and art are a message of peace,” he concludes. “I’m already building that bridge, and hopefully it will be finished soon.”